Who invented television? Opinions differ, largely depending on the country where the question is asked and the company answering it. But the basics are generally agreed.

In 1884 German Paul Nipkow proposed a spinning disc with a spiral track of holes that let light through to a photo sensor, to scan an image.

In the mid-1920s Charles Francis Jenkins in the USA and John Logie Baird in the UK tried to turn the Nipkow disc into a working TV system.

Baird got further with the idea than Jenkins. But TV based on mechanical moving parts was always going to fail in the end.

Starting in 1927 US inventor Philo Farnsworth patented an all-electronic scanning system.

Russian emigree David Sarnoff and the Radio Corporation of America threw money at the idea and made it work – with the help of another Russian emigree Vladimir Zworykin.

Sarnoff bullied Farnsworth out of his patent rights – just as he would later do to Edwin Armstrong, inventor of FM radio.

In April 1927 At&T Bell Telephone Labs made headline news by sending all-electronic pictures by copper wire from Washington to New York.

In the mid-1930s Telefunken in Germany and EMI in the UK took the development of all-electronic television to new levels, with systems that used over 400 scanning lines and were then thought of as ‘high definition’.

There is seldom any mention of Japan’s role in early television, but JVC, the Japanese Victor Company, will tell you that Kenjiro Takayanagi (1899-1990) played a major and largely sidelined part in bringing television to the masses. And buried in JVC’s vaults there are pictures to prove it.

Takayanagi started out as a teacher, then worked for the Japan Broadcasting Company and joined the Victor Company where he rose to the role of vice president. He used a mechanical Nipkow disk and a photoelectric tube in the transmitter, but electronic Braun cathode ray tube in the receiver.


His first transmission, which used 40 scanning lines, was on December 25, 1926. In 1928 he sent and received an image of a person, again with 40 scanning lines at 14 frames/second.

Takayanagi built an electronic television camera in 1933, shortly after Vladimir Zworykin in the US, and went on to make a 100 scanning line, 20 frames per second system.